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Bronxville Mom Worries After Reports of West Nile

BRONXVILLE, N.Y. – Olga de Grasse was not happy to hear the news about the discovery of the West Nile Virus in Westchester County this week.

De Grasse, who lives on the Bronxville-Yonkers border, watched her son, Michael, 5, playing on the playground behind the Bronxville School late Friday afternoon.

"He just loves to play outside, roll around in the grass, " she said. "I am going to have to stop at the store on the way home to get some stuff to protect him."

De Grasse was reacting to the news that a mosquito batch collected in Hastings by the Westchester County Department of Health tested positive for the West Nile Virus, according to a press release from the department issued on Thursday. It is the first positive sample of West Nile Virus identified this year in Westchester.

There were a total of 13 positive mosquito batches found in Westchester County in 2010 and four cases of West Nile virus in humans.

According to the county’s department of health, there have been no reported cases of West Nile in humans this year. The department will continue to monitor and test mosquitoes in the area.

West Nile, a type of virus known as flavivirus, was identified in 1937 in Uganda. It was discovered in the United States, in New York, in the summer of 1999 and since then has spread throughout the country.

West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes have been confirmed in cities and towns in Connecticut and Westchester County. The disease is most common during August and early September, which is when mosquitoes carrying the highest amounts of the virus are abundant. As the weather cools, mosquitoes die off and the risk of infection decreases.

Experts say that about 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus recover on their own without much problem. They may not even know they were infected.

The other 20 percent of those infected, typically elderly people above the age of 60, develop illness including meningitis, an infection of the brain and spinal cord, encephalitis, a swelling of the brain, and even paralysis.

To avoid mosquitoes, stay inside when they feed, which is typically between dusk and dawn. If you are outdoors, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants as well as socks and shoes.

Cleaning roof gutters or any areas where water collects will help to eliminate their breeding grounds.

If you do become infected with West Nile virus, you might experience minor symptoms, such as low-grade fever and mild headache. Or, you might not experience any symptoms at all. Reportedly, less than 1 percent of those affected develop life-threatening illnesses, such as West Nile encephalitis or West Nile meningitis that include inflammation of the brain, the CDC says.

The mild signs and symptoms of West Nile virus infection are fever, headaches, body aches and fatigue that generally go away on their own. But severe signs and symptoms like severe headaches, disorientation, lack of coordination, convulsions, tremors or sudden weakness require immediate attention.

De Grasse said she will keep a close eye on Michael for any symptoms.

"For me, it is all about prevention, I will monitor where he plays making sure there are no little puddles around, where mosquitos breed , and of course I will protect him with repellent," she said. "I have to be careful because there is no way he won't want to go outside to play."

Here are the Centers for Disease Control's tips for avoiding West Nile virus:

• Use mosquito repellant only on exposed skin and/or clothing.

• Use repellants that contain 10 percent or less DEET for children and no more than 30 percent DEET for adults. Don't use repellents with DEET on infants and small children. When using repellent, do not spray toward face or under clothes. Apply with hands away from cuts, eyes and mouth.

• Reducing the number of mosquitoes in your backyard can help decrease the spread of West Nile virus.

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